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Proposed bill promotes sustainable community planning

By REBECCA DOLAN, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI   |   Aug. 3, 2010 at 3:29 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A bill making its way through the U.S. Senate aims to help American communities plan for the future.

The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., provides for planning and grants that would allow communities to better coordinate transportation, housing and community development The goals for communities include reducing traffic, encouraging economic growth, preserving green space and creating more affordable housing.

"Failure to plan is planning to fail," Dodd said Tuesday at a hearing of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

The senator cited poor community planning as a cause of growth away from city centers. The result? The disappearance of farmland as well as longer commutes that strain infrastructure -- both issues that have negative environmental impacts.

To facilitate sustainable planning and growth, two grant programs would be created by the bill.

The Comprehensive Planning Grant Program would make money available to help communities formulate plans. The Challenge Grant Program would then allocate funds to enable communities to move forward with their plans.

"These grants will encourage regions to think about how best to preserve rural areas and green spaces, link commuters with energy-efficient, affordable public transit and develop our main streets, urban centers and suburban communities into places that are accessible and vibrant," Dodd said in a statement.

A total of $750 million is allotted for grants in fiscal year 2011, with amounts increasing over the next two years.

Strong support for the measure was found among Democratic committee members and, with few Republicans present, there was little challenge to the legislation.

"I think the overall philosophy is wise," said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah. "But I will be voting against it."

Bennett cited concerns that portions of the legislation might get in the way of measures already being taken in his state.

By voice vote along party lines, the committee sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration.

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